View Full Version : Alpha 1 driven with no gear lube!

07-19-2011, 07:18 PM
I own a 1982 Donzi 2+3 18' with a Chevy 350. It has an original 423 hours on it.
I stored it for the Winter in a "questionable situation" which I would rather not go into here. I drove the boat about 2 hours so far this year and happened to check the Alpha 1 on my boat lift and found the top relief screw loose. That made me nervous, so I bought new Mercruser gear lube and went to pump in the new lube when I noticed in horror that the lower screw was missing. I had been driving with absolutely no lube for about two hours off and on. As mentioned above, I believe someone purposely removed the lower screw and loosen the upper to drain it.
I put in the quart and a quarter or so, a new screw and drove it a short distance to check it out and all seems well.
Could I be lucky on this? Is there an easy check to see if any damage was done?
I have no leaking, it seems quiet, and the temperature of the engine is running right.
I am considering running it another couple of hours and then replacing the lube once more to check for moisture. I was then considering opening it up at the end of the season to check bearings, etc.
Ideas welcomed!

07-19-2011, 07:42 PM
I have seen that once before where the drive ran on water only, no noticeable harm still amazes me! Hopefully you will have the same luck that guy did.


07-19-2011, 07:59 PM
Thanks for the encouragement Phil! I was wondering - as the boat is running - is it sucking water into the outdrive - sort of like the engine cooling system? In the "short run" that would certainly seem to keep it cool. Obviously, water in in the bearings, but I am hopeful that it will go away with a change or two of the lube.
By the way - this is a fresh-water lake.
I did get encouraged by finding the Sterndrive Engineering site, which shows the upper and lower unit priced at $1295 as a direct replacement (ugh!) - but at least better than the $3000 I've been hearing.
Would appreciate more opinions on this.

07-19-2011, 08:34 PM
If it was mine...I'd top it off with gear lube and run like it's stolen.

Not much you can do now.

Morgan's Cloud
07-19-2011, 08:45 PM
To me , that's pretty incredible ..
Years back I had a friend who had a 'bad service experience' and he only made it 400 yards (idling) without drive oil and that was with the drain screws installed !

Considering my experience with Alpha 1's I'd say you've either got a one in a million there and were very , very lucky or expect a detonation shortly down the road .

07-19-2011, 08:46 PM
Dump the drive oil into a clean casserol dish after about two hours or so of running. The oil should be GREEN and Clean..No "milky" oil..and No metal chips or metalic stuff in the oil.. Regardless: Refill and run it again for another few (5)..? or so hours. If all is good..you are OK and got away with it. :nilly: DJ

07-19-2011, 09:14 PM
If it was mine...I'd top it off with gear lube and run like it's stolen.

Not much you can do now.


You never know with a drive that old. It could have had old nasty oil residue all over the gears that kept it lubed up enough not to burn up

07-19-2011, 09:21 PM
I had changed out the lube in the spring two or three years ago - never got it in the water last year. Just praying on this one!

07-19-2011, 09:22 PM
Years ago two young guys in my area had this same issue ; only in saltwater .
The lubeless drive sat in the saltwater with the plugs removed for a week.
The drive was soon shot.

Since your's was in freshwater, & you discovered it early, perhapps you will have better luck.

07-20-2011, 12:10 AM
Listen to Gbond

07-22-2011, 10:55 PM

You never know with a drive that old. It could have had old nasty oil residue all over the gears that kept it lubed up enough not to burn up

http://www.donzi.net/forums/images/icons/icon1.png Re: Alpha 1 run without lube

Well, pulled the four screws off the top of the drive (with the lube still in it) and everything looked just great. The oil was about the same color as when it went in last week - sort of a greenish-brown, with no milkiness to it. The bearing has a bit of play in it, but I suspect that's normal. Gears (from what I can see) look fine - shiny with no rust. Put in a new "O" ring and torqued it down to 20 lbs each.
I drained the lube and it came out clean from top to bottom. As I watched the final drips over about 5 minutes, I noticed thin black lines of fine sludge as it slid along the side of the plastic bucket I drained it into. I'm assuming that's fine as it's just clearing out built up grime.

Anyway, I filled it up (by the way, you can't just pour it in from the top where the gears are exposed like you might think - it hits a vaccuum or something) by removing the bottom screw and pumping it up to the vent screw. Took it out for a ride and everything seems just fine.

I'm not 100% ready to say "whew" yet, but it sure seems like I should have bought a lottery ticket that day.

I've tried to post pictures that I downloaded from my camera to my e-mail, but my computer doesn't want them to show up for some reason. If I figure it out, will post.

PS - The whining I heard that led me to look at the rear-end - could it be the gear shift? Is there rotation in it when it is in the forward position at higher speeds?

08-03-2011, 11:16 PM
Whining is most likely caused by the gimble bearing. If you take the drive off, you will pull the input shaft (shaft that is connected to the drive by u-joints and pokes into the motor) out as well. There is a bearing half-way between the drive and fly-wheel on the motor. This bearing goes out from time to time, especially if there is water in there.

You can buy them for about 60.00. They are pretty easy to change if you have an alignment tool.

08-08-2011, 07:30 PM
Thanks for the info. Boat is running fine after all of the hassle.